Key facts of the case:
This case involved a request for the annulment of Belgian legislation that implemented the Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States. The challenge was made on the basis, in part, that the list annexed to the Decision identifying offences to which the ‘dual criminality principle’ (i.e. all Member States agree that these offences are recognised in each of their legal systems) applied, fails to satisfy the conditions of the principle of legality in criminal matters by failing to provide offences having a sufficiently clear and precise legal content. It was argued that the list gave only vague categories of undesirable behaviour. The applicant also argued that the judicial authority which must decide on the enforcement of a European arrest warrant would have insufficient information to determine effectively whether the offences for which the person sought was being charged, or in respect of which a penalty has been imposed on him, come within the list.
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
The ECJ held that no argument had been raised which would affect the validity of the Framework Decision.
Interpretation of article(s) and implications for the resolution of the case:
FRC - Article 49: The ECJ confirmed the following key points: The “principle of the legality of criminal offences and penalties (nullum crimen, nulla poena sine lege), which is one of the general legal principles underlying the constitutional traditions common to the Member States, has also been enshrined in various international treaties, in particular in Article 7(1) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” (para 49) This “principle implies that legislation must define clearly offences and the penalties which they attract. That condition is met in the case where the individual concerned is in a position, on the basis of the wording of the relevant provision and with the help of the interpretative assistance given by the courts, to know which acts or omissions will make him criminally liable” (para 50) Article 2(2) of the Framework Decision determines that the offences listed in that provision apply “‘if they are punishable in the issuing Member State by a custodial sentence or a detention order for a maximum period of at least three years and as they are defined by the law of the issuing Member State’.” (para 51) Therefore “the actual definition of those offences and the penalties applicable are those which follow from the law of ‘the issuing Member State’” not the Framework Decision. (para 52) “Accordingly, while Article 2(2) of the Framework Decision dispenses with verification of double criminality for the categories of offences mentioned therein, the definition of those offences and of the penalties applicable continue to be matters determined by the law of the issuing Member State, which …must respect fundamental rights and fundamental legal principles as enshrined in Article 6 EU, and, consequently, the principle of the legality of criminal offences and penalties.” (para 53) It follows that the principle of the legality of criminal offences and penalties is not infringed.
49, 50, 51, 52, 53